The end of August is a tough time to be a pop-culture fan. We’re left in the late-summer doldrums, when the big summer blockbusters are dwindling down to nothing, and the exciting new fall premieres have yet to make their debut.
There are, however, a few bright spots. Besides the return of Don and Betty Draper to their Ossining homestead, a pair of critically acclaimed TV shows have returned to air: Top Chef and Project Runway. Sure, reality shows aren’t the filet mignon of pop culture, but we’ll take what we can get.
What I like best about Top Chef and Project Runway is that—for the most part—these two shows really seem to advance their contestants based on merit. A wacky, abrasive, or dramatic personality alone will not get the hopefuls into the final round. Some kind of talent is needed to back it up.
I wonder if it’s a coincidence, then, that, as far as I know, no one from Westchester has been featured on either of these series. Our residents do have a storied history on reality screens, however. Here’s a look back at some competition-based reality shows and the local contestants that have appeared on them. Take a look and let me know what you think about the talent pool in our county.
Contestant: Becky O’Donohue
From: Dobbs Ferry
Season: Five (2006)
FYI: O’Donohue and her twin sister, Jessie, also appeared in a twin-themed episode of Fear Factor and posed for steamy Maxim photos together. While they may not have made it too far in their reality competitions, Tennessee native Kimberly Locke made it to third place in the second season of AI 2003, then was impressed enough with Westchester County to move here.
Contestant: Ereka Vetrini
Season: One (2004)
FYI: Bill Rancic, the winner of that season of The Apprentice, had his first Trump job in White Plains and lived there for a short time.
Beauty and the Geek
Contestant: Matthew Herman
From: Goldens Bridge
Season: Three (2007)
FYI: Megan Hauserman, the winning beauty, may not have changed her superficial ways. She went on from Beauty and the Geek to appear in Rock of Love, I Love Money, Rock of Love: Charm School, and, finally, starring in her own dating show, Megan Wants a Millionaire. Unfortunately, a contestant on Megan Wants a Millionaire became a suspect in a murder midway through its airing, forcing VH1 to pull the show. (The suspect was eventually found hanging in a Canadian motel room.) We think Matthew Herman is better off without all that.
The Great American Road Trip
Contestants: The DiSalvatore Family
Season: One (2009)
FYI: This show is kind of an Amazing Race-lite, in which families compete by looking for clues in a cross-country road trip. My family vacations were never as exciting.
Contestant: Paul Grassi
Season: Five (2008)
FYI: The Mole never has been heard from again. I guess they figured they couldn’t do better than Grassi.
The Next Food Network Star
Contestants: Brett August and Michael Proietti
From: Rye Brook’s Doral Arrowwood and New Rochelle’s Radisson Hotel, respectively
Season: Five (2009)
Placed: Ninth and Fifth, respectively
FYI: Neither of these “cheftestants” actually lived in the area before the taping. August lived in New York City, and Proietti lived in City Island. Jeffrey Vaden, a real White Plains resident, came in eighth in the fourth season in 2008.
On the Lot
Contestant: Sam Friedlander
From: Mount Vernon
Season: One (2008)
FYI: Even with big names like Steven Spielberg behind it, ratings for this show were miserably low. So low that there will never, ever be a season two. Friedlander is directing his own web series called The Hustler, and it probably has more viewers than On the Lot.
Pussycat Dolls Present: Search for the Next Doll
Contestant: Asia Nitollano
From: Mount Vernon
Season: One (2007)
FYI: After winning the coveted spot in the Pussycat Dolls performance troupe (I refuse to call them a “band”), Asia decided to go solo instead. We’re still waiting on her debut.
Rock of Love
Contestant: Samantha Weisberg
Season: One (2007)
FYI: Rock of Love finished airing its third season this year, so maybe Bret Michaels is just a little bit too picky.
Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments.